Style without substance

Local Republicans are attacking online voter registration for political gain.

by Ronald Dixon

Since the state adopted a new online voter registration system, local Republicans have been attacking Secretary of State Mark Ritchie for subverting the powers of the Legislature.

Four prominent local Republicans and the conservative group Minnesota Majority expressed concern over the voter registration system. They argue that the recent MNsure database leak is reason to place the program under tight scrutiny. These politicians believe Richie did not have the authority to launch the program and that the Legislature should have implemented the online registration system.

The rhetorical choices of these Republicans, though, cast doubt on the sincerity of their intentions. Instead of improving government, they appear to be using online registration as a mechanism to gain political points.

We see this through the comparisons with MNsure, the Minnesota health insurance exchange program created through the Affordable Care Act. Critics of the data breach, where initial analyses of MNsure detected an abnormal level of data security risk, apply similar arguments to the online voter registration system. For example, Dan McGrath, the president of Minnesota Majority, declared, “Minnesotans deserve a peace of mind knowing that their privacy should be protected in all aspects of government.”

Republicans have a heightened incentive to critique DFL policies in the lead-up to 2014 midterm elections. Ritchie has said he will not seek another term as Secretary of State. This may serve as an opportunity for Republican candidates to use online voter registration as a vehicle to forge a campaign to take back the state executive branch.

I wish not to give the impression that politicians should not critique governmental programs. However, local Republicans must provide actual substance to their claims.

If they do not take issue with the substance of online voter registration, why does the local GOP critique Ritchie’s authority?

Rather than attacking Ritchie, these Republicans should focus on making the program safer in order to open elections to more Minnesotans